Category Archives: Cathay Pacific

Trip Report: The Wing (Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge)

This is the fifth installment of a round-the-world trip report that started here. We pick up in Hong Kong.

In late February, I flew into Hong Kong International Airport for a 23 hour layover that I spent in Macau. (Don’t worry, I’m going to Hong Kong proper in a few weeks!)

I flew into Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific First Class and out of Hong Kong the next day in Cathay Pacific Business Class. Waiting for that Business Class flight, I headed to The Wing, which is Cathay Pacific’s flagship lounge.

Anyone flying Cathay Pacific in a premium cabin can access the lounge, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be allowed into the First Class area since my only First Class flight had landed the day before.

I presented my First Class boarding pass upon entering the lounge and asked: “I flew in in First Class. Can I access the First Class part of the lounge?”

I was allowed into the First Class area and headed straight for the dining room.

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The dining room is large, but the tables are packed in tightly. The room was practically empty, so I would have preferred fewer tables for a more spacious feel.

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A waiter came and presented the a la carte menu, which featured standard Western breakfast dishes like eggs, sausage, bacon, and hash browns.

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I don’t like eggs, so I asked for an order of every side dish, all of which I love. I also ordered an orange juice.

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While I waited for my a la carte order, I checked out the breakfast buffet. The breakfast buffet has pastries, meats, and several Chinese dishes.

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I made myself a plate of noodles and potatoes, and another of cheese and crackers.

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When I got back to my table, my orange juice had arrived.

 

 

 

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The food was delicious. The potatoes were seasoned and cooked just the way I like them.

After finishing my buffet plates, I took a lap around The Wing, while I waited for my a la carte plate.

The bar was modern and sparse with marble counter tops. It was empty since it was early morning.

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The main seating area felt really spacious because of the terminal’s high ceilings.

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The lounge area was crowded although some of the seats have high backs which makes them kind of private. If you want your privacy, hang out in a Cabana or even the dining room.

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From the seating area, you can look down at the gates and tarmac, which is such a gorgeous view with all the international traffic Hong Kong airport gets.Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 12.10.02 AM

The lounge had a modern workstation. These are the exact desktop computers I would want if I stayed in one place long enough to justify a desktop.

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Moet champagne was self-serve.

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Past the seating area were the famous cabanas.

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The five Cabanas feature a tub, a day bed, a shower, a sink, and a toilet–ample space to relax for a few minutes or a few hours while you wait.

The 12 shower suites provide additional showers if that’s all you want.

I didn’t have time to make use of a Cabana, but I wanted to see how they looked in case I come back through Hong Kong in First Class.

The bath looked inviting for a slow soak if you have time to kill.

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The day bed looked very comfortable for a quick nap if you had a few hours.

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The mirrors provided a good place to freshen up. This picture also gives some perspective on how large a Cabana is, about the size of a living room.

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There was also a full shower in the Cabana.

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My overall impression of the Cabana was that it was a really beautiful and spacious place to relax alone or with a companion if you have a few hours to kill in Hong Kong.

I headed back to the dining room, and my food arrived shortly.

All the sides were delicious. There’s nothing like crispy bacon in the morning.

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Comparison to Lufthansa First Class Terminal

Later in the trip report, I’ll have an installment about the Lufthansa First Class Terminal. I enjoyed the Lufthansa First Class Terminal more than the Cathay Pacific Wing overall, but the Cabanas in the Wing are far superior to the private bathrooms in the First Class Terminal.

I liked the design and space better of the Cabanas, plus the day bed looked great for napping.

Getting in the Wing

You can book Cathay Pacific First Class roundtrip to Hong Kong for 135,000 American Airlines miles or 120,000 US Airways miles. You can earn 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase with the US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®.

We know that the US Airways® Premier World MasterCard® will no longer be offered as soon as the US Airways and American Airlines frequent flyer programs integrate, some time in early 2015. That means that the chance to earn 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase will disappear soon. Check out all the places you can go with just the sign up bonus.

Full Trip Report

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Anatomy of an Award: Cathay Pacific First Class and Qantas First Class on a Trip to Australia and Hong Kong

Recently a friend came to me with an award request along the lines of what I have done for hundreds of clients of the MileValue Award Booking Service.

He wanted to visit Sydney during its summer and Hong Kong on the same trip. He wanted to fly in some of the world’s nicest airline products. And he wanted to maximize his weekends because he could only budget seven vacation days for the trip.

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Through several rounds of Free Credit Card Consultations, he had built impressive six-figure balances with United, American, Delta, US Airways, and Ultimate Rewards.

I suggested that we use his US Airways miles now–before they are devalued next year–to get him into Cathay Pacific First Class and Qantas First Class, two of the world’s nicest First Classes. I helped book him an 11 day trip that uses only seven vacation days, gives him time in each city, and costs only 140k miles roundtrip.

He had gotten all of his US Airways miles from The US Airways® Premier World MasterCard®, which currently offers 40,000 bonus miles after first purchase.

  • How did I know that using US Airways miles would be the best value?
  • How did I search for the very rare Qantas First Class space on an A380 between the United States and Australia?
  • How did I search for Cathay Pacific First Class?
  • With what routing rules did I have to comply?
  • What were his options for a free oneway?
  • How exactly did I book the award?

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FGF: $200 Visa Gift Card and Premium Economy Trip for Two to HKG

Update 5/27/14: A winner has been picked for the $200 Visa Gift Card. You can still enter the contest for two roundtrips to HKG in Cathay Pacific Premium Economy at www.loungebuddy.com/cathay/

Two awesome giveaways for your Aloha Friday:

  • One MileValue reader will win a $200 Visa Gift Card
  • One entrant (not necessarily a MileValue reader) will win an incredible trip for two to Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific Premium Economy from Cathay Pacific and Lounge Buddy.

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How do you enter the two giveaways?

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Around the World in Cathay, Singapore, and Lufthansa First: Cathay Pacific First Class from New York to Hong Kong

After a few days in New York last month, I took a 16 hour flight in Cathay Pacific First Class from New York-JFK to Hong Kong. It was the second best flight of my life (behind only Emirate First Class); I can’t recommend Cathay Pacific First Class highly enough.

That said, the ground services in New York were abysmal. (To skip them and get to the flight review, click here.) When I showed up at the Cathay Pacific check in area, I only saw Economy Class counters and this line out the door:

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An agent directed me to the First Class check in area that British Airways operates for Cathay Pacific.

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Check in and security were smooth, and I made my way to the British Airways First Class lounge.

The British Airways First Class Lounge is one of the worst First Class lounges I’ve been in.

It’s a lot better than your basic airport lounge, but it didn’t have the things First Class lounges around the world have:

  • Food to order, awesome buffets, or both
  • Waiters
  • Fantastic seating areas
  • Showers
  • Nap rooms
  • Quiet and seclusion (exclusivity)

Instead, it was a room a room with dozens of people in tight quarters who had access to a lackluster breakfast buffet and a small self-service bar.

The best parts of the morning buffet were the berries and the instant noodles.

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There was a good alcohol selection, but it was 7 AM, so I didn’t test it out.

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Everyone else in the lounge working hard, so I grabbed some fruit and cereal and used the speedy wifi to download a few shows for the flight.

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When it was almost time to board, I headed to the gate and saw the 777 waiting for me.

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Unfortunately boarding continued the theme of atrocious ground service. No queuing was evident as the mob waited. The ground staff was not able to board First Class first, and I was stuck behind 15 people on the way down the jet bridge.

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Finally, I got to the aircraft door though, and that’s where the story changes. If the ground services were worthy of Ryanair, the flight itself was worthy of the hype accorded to Cathay Pacific First Class, one of the world’s best commercial flying experiences.

Cathay Pacific 841
New York (JFK) – Hong Kong (HKG)
Depart: 9:00 AM on Thursday, February 20, 2014
Arrive: 2:20 PM on Friday, February 21, 2014
Duration: 16hr20min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 2K (First Class)

The next 16 hours were spent relaxing, sleeping, eating, and being doted upon by an incredible crew.

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How was the seat, bed, food, entertainment, and service? (with tons of pictures)

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Around the World in Cathay, Singapore, and Lufthansa First: Introduction

I haven’t been home since February 16 when I boarded a plane from Honolulu for Newark. I have loved the I’m on trip because I finally got to play poker in Asia, see Angkor Wat, catch up with friends in Europe, see more of the Balkans, and experience the curiosities that are Macau and Singapore.

The trip took me to:

  • New York
  • Macau, China
  • Singapore
  • Cambodia
  • London
  • Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Frankfurt
  • Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Atlanta, Georgia

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Along the way, I’ve flown and stayed at:

  • Cathay Pacific First Class
  • Singapore Airlines First Class
  • Lufthansa First Class (and First Class Terminal)
  • Wizz Air and Jetstar Asia (low cost carriers)
  • Radisson Martinique on Broadway
  • Grand Hyatt Macau
  • Le Meridien Angkor Wat
  • The May Fair in London
  • A Holiday Inn Express in Frankfurt
  • hostels in Cambodia, Singapore, and Ljubljana
  • a motel in Greensboro
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Lufthansa First Class, Hair Style by Nap

Booking Process

What was the booking process, how much time did I spend in each place, and what would I have done differently?

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Trip Report: Cathay Pacific Business Class from Tokyo to Hong Kong

This review is a continuation of my fun US Airways redemption that I wrote about back in this post. I reviewed Turkish Business Class: Washington DC to Istanbul already and had a similar (great) experience on my flight from Istanbul to Tokyo also in Turkish Business, so I am skipping to the next segment in Cathay Pacific Business Class.

I was in Tokyo, and I wanted to add a quick side trip onto my main award, and Hong Kong seemed like the logical spot. I had British Avios to burn, there were several nonstops on JAL and Cathay Pacific from convenient Tokyo-Haneda, and one of Cathay’s was flown by their double-decker Boeing 747-400.

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As many of you noticed in my Lufthansa trip report, I’m obsessed with being on the top deck of planes (perhaps this translates directly from my bunk bed preferences as a child). The fact that Cathay Pacific is slowly retiring this plane from service provided added incentive to book.

Image from cathaypacific.com

Image from cathaypacific.com

How was the seat? Was the service up to Cathay Pacific’s high standards? Was this redemption a good use of Avios?

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The New Ultra-Luxury Way to Get to the Maldives on Miles

Cathay Pacific has initiated four-times-weekly flights from Hong Kong to the Maldives with an A330 aircraft with fully flat business class (but no first class.)

The route opens up an exciting ultra-luxury way for Americans to get to the Maldives with a combination of American Airlines miles and British Airways Avios on Cathay Pacific flights.

Cathay Pacific First Class

What’s the optimal use of your miles on these flights?

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Anatomy of an Award: Getting Extra First Class on Cathay Pacific

Last month, I mused about my dream trip combining Cathay Pacific First Class, Singapore Suites Class, and the Lufthansa First Class Terminal. I took the first step toward booking the awards necessary for the trip yesterday by putting Cathay Pacific First Class on hold.

In the process of researching my Cathay Pacific flights, I discovered I could add an extra four hours in Cathay Pacific First Class, that I can take a ferry from Hong Kong International Airport to Macao, and where to look for the best First Class space on Cathay Pacific.

Cathay Pacific First Class. Soon to be pictured: me.

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Singapore Suites Class, Cathay Pacific First Class, and the Lufthansa First Class Terminal on One Trip

Edit 10/20/13: Two thirds of this trip is booked. See Getting Extra First Class on Cathay Pacific and Booking Singapore Suites. Lufthansa First Class will hopefully be booked in late February.

My five biggest points-and-miles goals for the next year are to fly:

  1. Singapore Suites Class
  2. Cathay Pacific First Class
  3. Lufthansa First Class out of Frankfurt to access the First Class Terminal
  4. the Island Hopper
  5. Etihad First Class

The first three are surprisingly easy and cheap to piece together into one short trip around the world. I’ve been working on a few permutations for fun that I’ll share in this post.

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The Five Best Values on the American Airlines Chart

Yesterday’s post about the Coolest Thing to Do with 130k and 280k American Airlines Miles got me to look at the American Airlines’ chart again for value. I found what I think are the Five Best Values in premium cabins.

These values combine low miles, low taxes and fees, and the very best products from among American’s partners. How does First Class on Etihad or British Airways for 40k miles sound?

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The Coolest Thing You Can Do with 130k American Airlines Miles (Soon) or 280k Now

A few weeks ago, I shared my thoughts on The Coolest Thing You Can Do with 57.5k United Miles and 10k Avios, which arose from daydreaming about booking myself more award trips.

The last few days I’ve worked myself into a frenzy planning an incredible-value American Airlines Explorer Award around the world in business class for 130k American Airlines miles and the most opulent Explorer Award possible for 280k miles.

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Anatomy of an Award: Routing West to India on an American Airlines Award

This is a guest post from Chase Tajima. Chase is a tax attorney in Honolulu–Aloha! He writes about Hawaii tax law at TheTaxTable.wordpress.com. Anyone is welcome to submit a guest Anatomy of an Award post, so we can all learn from interesting award bookings.

I started following MileValue because I wanted to find a cost effective way to get from Honolulu to Delhi, India to attend my college roommate’s wedding. Roundtrip flights from from Honolulu to Delhi ranged from about $1,600 to $2,000+ in economy. I found MileValue.com to be the only blog that effectively taught award booking rules step-by-step. [Scott: Thanks, Chase!]

I started by learning about The Five Cardinal Rules of American Airlines Awards. While most of the rules were fairly easy to follow, the fifth rule–unique to American Airlines awards–is incredibly frustrating:

Awards between Region A and Region B cannot transit Region C unless specifically allowed.

What this means is that an award from Honolulu (North America) to Delhi (Middle East/Indian Subcontinent) cannot route through another region, say Asia 1 (Tokyo).

There are exceptions to this rule. One of these exceptions is that a routing may traverse Europe to get from North America to the Indian Subcontinent. In other words, to get to India, one must either fly directly or one may route through Europe. All other routings are invalid.

Under this exception, I could have routed through Europe, but I wanted a free oneway prior to my flight to India. This meant Honolulu would have to be my international gateway city because stopovers are only allowed at the North American international gateway city on AA awards and you have to stopover at your home airport to employ a free oneway. This, in turn, meant that I had to try to fly west over the Pacific through Asia to get to India.

How could I get a free oneway and follow AA routing rules?

I called the AAdvantage desk at 800-882-8880 to reserve an award flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu–my free oneway–with a month long stopover and then Honolulu to Delhi. The first agent said it wouldn’t be possible to have a stopover in Honolulu because it couldn’t be my international gateway city traveling to India.

With AAdvantage miles in short supply, I hung up and decided to get creative.

I took a look at the AA award chart, which specifically requires that a North America to India award be transatlantic only. That award is 45k miles each way in economy class.

But what if I went through Asia?

Going from North America to India via Asia would mean that my award would actually be two awards from AA’s perspective. USA to Asia and Asia to India.

I found space for flights from Honolulu to Tokyo and Tokyo to Delhi. Could I make it work?

The wedding is scheduled for November, which is a break for me. That means that my USA to Asia 1 flight falls during the off peak dates of October 1 – April 30. That means that Los Angeles to Honolulu//Honolulu to Tokyo priced at 25k miles oneway.

Tokyo to Delhi is 22.5k miles each way year round. My total trip priced at 47.5k (25k + 22.5k) miles. That’s 2,500 miles more than if I had routed through Europe, but look at the benefits:

1) Free oneway from Los Angeles to Honolulu. If I’d routed east through Europe, there would have been no free oneway possible. I value the free oneway at $200.

2) Free stopover possible in Japan. Normally free stopovers are only allowed on AA awards in North America. But because AA saw my award as two awards, I could stop in Japan for as long as I liked. [Scott: This is the way to get free stopovers abroad on AA awards; break one award into two. Sometimes this can even save miles, like if you broke New York to Amman into New York to Berlin and Berlin to Amman during the winter. The award would drop from 45k to 40k (20k + 20k) AA miles.]

3) More direct routing from Honolulu. Heading west saved me about 5,000 miles of flying, which is about ten hours I don’t have to be in an economy class seat!

4) Routing west meant no chance of flying British Airways, which would have cost hundreds of extra dollars in surcharges!

5) I was able to upgrade to business class for part of the award at a low miles price. If I had flown east and wanted one segment in business class, the whole award would have priced in business class–67.5k miles. But since flying west meant two awards, when I later decided to upgrade Tokyo to Delhi, it only cost me 7,500 extra miles to change from JAL economy to Cathay Pacific business class. Now the award is half economy–to Tokyo–and half business–to Delhi–for 55k total.

Is this useful for non-Hawaiians?

People on the west coast may find shorter routings heading west to India than east. To unlock those shorter routings, they can head west breaking their one award into two. It will cost a few more miles, but they will have the benefits I mentioned above. And they can stopover for free in Asia, which they would normally not be allowed to do.

What about people who want to fly business class?

There is a bigger premium to fly business class west to India. Flying east would cost 67.5k miles each way in business class. Flying west would mean two awards: 50k to Asia 1 and 30k more from Asia 1 to India for a total of 80k each way. That 12.5k difference is bigger, but may be worth it for people who want a better route, a chance to fly Cathay Pacific, or a free stopover in Japan, Korea, or Mongolia (Asia 1).

Recap

The award chart and AA agents will tell you that you can’t route west from the US to India. But you can, and I’ve ticketed exactly that. The trick is to ticket the trip as two awards–one from the US to Asia and one from Asia to India. During the winter in economy class, this is only a 2,500 mile premium over heading east.

During the summer and in business class, the premium is larger. But heading west has great benefits–the biggest of which may be unlocking a free stopover in Japan, which is otherwise impossible on an AA award.

And it wouldn’t be an AA award without a free oneway. Make sure you are grabbing all the free oneways, stopovers, and open jaws you are entitled to.

How to Get to Australia and New Zealand with American Airlines Miles Part 2

This is Part 2 of my two-part post on using AA miles to get to Australia and New Zealand. Read Part 1 first.

Here are a few more ways to get to Australia and New Zealand with American miles.

Air Tahiti Nui and Air Pacific: Connect in the Middle of Nowhere

One horribly annoying rule when redeeming AA miles is that your award cannot transit a region other than the origin region and destination region unless explicitly permitted. (Seriously, read The Five Cardinal Rules of AA Awards if you haven’t.)

Awards between North America and the South Pacific cannot route through any airports not in those regions. The obvious candidate for a third region to transit would be Asia. If you fly USA-Asia-Australia, AA will break that into two awards and charge you the USA-Asia price plus the Asia-Australia price.

You might think that means you can only route on direct flights between the USA and Australia, but American actually has two non-oneworld partners with hubs within AA’s definition of the South Pacific.

Air Tahiti Nui has its hub (PPT) in Tahiti and Air Pacific’s hub (NAN) is in Fiji. Air Tahiti Nui’s relevant flights are:

Los Angeles <-> Tahiti

Tahiti <-> Auckland

And Air Pacific’s are:

Los Angeles <-> Fiji

Honolulu <-> Fiji

Fiji <-> Auckland

Fiji <-> Christchurch

Fiji <-> Sydney

Fiji <-> Melbourne

Fiji <-> Brisbane

That means you can route from Australia or New Zealand through either Tahiti or Fiji to Los Angeles and other points within the US and Canada for the normal miles price of 37.5k/62.5k/72.5k each way in economy/business/first.

I’m not sure how to search Air Pacific’s availability besides calling AA. Let us know in the comments if you know a better way.

Air Tahiti Nui’s space can be found on ExpertFlyer. (See my guide to using ExpertFlyer.) Getting from Los Angeles to Auckland may include an overnight in Tahiti, but it is very possible. Remember that layovers can be up to 24 hours on international AA awards.

The two major drawbacks of routing through Tahiti and Fiji are that you can’t stopover, and the premium-cabin product is not very impressive.

Stopovers on AA awards can only be taken at the North American International Gateway city, meaning they can never be taken outside North America–unless you know one of my tricks that does not apply here.

If you want to spend more than 24 hours in Fiji or Tahiti on the way to Australia, you’ll need a separate award from those places to Australia or New Zealand costing 20k/30k/42.5k each way in economy/business/first.

That means a vacation that included both Tahiti and New Zealand would cost 95k/155k/187.5k AA miles total in economy/business/first class.

Here’s the seatmap of the Air Tahiti Nui plane that you’d fly the whole way:

First class features angled lie flats, and business class has recliners. I’ll also add that I’ve never seen an Air Tahiti Nui flight with more than one first class award seat available.

I would only route on Air Pacific or Air Tahiti Nui to Oceania if I wanted to stopover in those places and to pay for the extra award or if it were the only way to get to Australia, and I really needed to be there.

To book Air Pacific or Air Tahiti Nui, you will have to call AA and incur a $25 phone fee. The number is 800-882-8880.

Cathay Pacific: Combining Asia and Australia at a Higher Miles Price

You can’t book one award from the USA to Australia that routes through Asia. AA will automatically break that into USA to Asia and Asia to Australia, costing you more miles.

Paying this premium may be worth it if you want to combine Asia and Australia into one trip, you really want to fly Cathay Pacific, or you have no other way to get to Australia.

Cathay Pacific has its hub in Hong Kong, which AA classifies as part of Asia 2. North America to Asia 2 is 35k/55k/67.5k miles each way in economy/business/first. Asia 2 to the South Pacific is 25k/35k/45k each way.

That means if you routed from Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Sydney on Cathay Pacific oneway, it would cost 60k/90k/112.5k miles. That’s a hefty premium over a direct LAX-SYD flight, and it’s the price whether you stop in Hong Kong for two hours or two months.

If you’re willing to pay that premium, you can stop in Asia, enjoy Cathay Pacific’s product, and have more flexibility on your trip. And I should note that you are more than welcome to fly different classes of service from the USA to Asia and from Asia to Australia. Since it’s two separate awards, you can mix-and-match cabins at will.

To search for Cathay Pacific space, I recommend using qantas.com or BA.com–see my guide to using BA.com for oneworld award searches. Then you have to call AA to complete booking. You will incur a $25 phone fee.

I used Cathay Pacific as an example because it represents an aspirational award for many people. Everything in this section could equally apply if you route through Asia on AA metal or JAL metal (with slight changes in the miles needed if you route through Asia 1, which includes Japan.)

Between Oz and NZ

Getting between Australia and New Zealand with AA miles, there are only two options. You can try to find space on the tag flight between Auckland and Sydney on LAN’s Santiago, Chile to Sydney service. Or you can take one of the tons of flights on Qantas between major Australian cities and major New Zealand destinations.

There is no limit to the number of partners used on an AA award, so it’s not a problem to fly LAX-HNL-SYD-AKL on one award with the three flights operated by American, Qantas, and LAN.

Recap

There are several ways to get from the USA to Australia and New Zealand with AA miles. The quickest and most comfortable way to arrive is on a Qantas flight. Try to snag a seat on an A380 if you can.

If you want to combine Hawaii and Australia in one trip, you can do that easily by flying HNL-SYD on Qantas, Jetstar, or Hawaiian.

If you want to or have to route through Tahiti or Fiji, partners Air Tahiti Nui and Air Pacific can help.

Combining Asia and Australia will drive up the award price because American will treat your routing as two separate awards. The higher price may be worth paying to combine two great destinations and to fly a great carrier like Cathay Pacific.

Bonus

This article didn’t mention free oneways. Of course you can combine any trip to Australia with up to two free oneways since a free oneway can be added each direction on international AA awards.

Here’s my post on free oneways on AA awards. And if you don’t live anywhere on my list of international gateway cities, you can use my trick to get an almost free oneway if you don’t live at an international gateway city.